Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Friday Music: Going Large

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  • Mark Thomas, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The “More barn!” story.

    Hah

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • JonathanM,

    Distributing audio for final listening purposes in 192/24 is ridiculous. Distributing for remixing/remastering/further processing, that may well make sense, particularly if the individual tracks (i.e. pre-mix) are distributed.

    Why? Science. http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

    If anything, 48kHz/24bit would be the sweet-spot at providing just a little more dynamic range (not that we don't have a heap already at 16bit) while still covering what we can actually hear.

    The claims about the player itself are somewhat ludicrous. A zero-feedback amplifier usually implies zero global feedback, but almost always has local feedback in multiple amplifier stages. Further, by stating that feedback can only correct errors that have already occurred is completely missing the point about why feedback circuits work so well.

    But hey, if it makes you think it sounds better, then that's a solid investment nonetheless - we frequently underestimate the value of the placebo.

    Sidenote: Does it annoy anyone else when kickstarter is co-opted as an advertising medium where the people behind the products already have plenty of funds to make it happen?

    Since Jul 2012 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart,

    Great post. After years working with Onkyo in Osaka, it's encouraging to see that people still care and can express audio output with clarity. Onkyo external DACs and audio boards have gained cult-like status in Hong Kong and mainland China. Strangely, these devices have never been available outside Japan, except in the grey market.

    Since Nov 2006 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I'm just going to leave this here:

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Jim Cathcart,

    Great post. After years working with Onkyo in Osaka, it’s encouraging to see that people still care and can express audio output with clarity. Onkyo external DACs and audio boards have gained cult-like status in Hong Kong and mainland China. Strangely, these devices have never been available outside Japan, except in the grey market.

    That's interesting. I bought one Onkyo receiver because it it was incredibly cheap for what it offered (like, $400 cheap) and then another one when I wanted a stereo for my office, and that was only $300 -- cheaper than any purist stereo amplifier. They're both powerful and well-featured amplifiers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Konrad Kurta, in reply to JonathanM,

    Distributing audio for final listening purposes in 192/24 is ridiculous. Distributing for remixing/remastering/further processing, that may well make sense, particularly if the individual tracks (i.e. pre-mix) are distributed.

    Why? Science. http://people.xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

    If anything, 48kHz/24bit would be the sweet-spot at providing just a little more dynamic range (not that we don't have a heap already at 16bit) while still covering what we can actually hear.

    This. Thanks for digging it up!

    South Korea • Since Dec 2012 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • RaggedJoe,

    I recently added a DAC to one of my amps. Good, improvement if you listen properly.

    Newbie question. How does streamed music (Pandora/Spotify) compare with Mp3/AAC etc? Sounds better to me, but I am no audiophile..

    City of Sales • Since Sep 2008 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Konrad Kurta,

    My hope is that this pushes a lot more music into lossless formats, so we're not stuck looking at HDAudio.com and pining. http://www.flyingnun.co.nz/‎ started selling FLAC a while ago much to my joy.

    I've read a lot about his views on high fidelity audio - I still feel it's largely a pointless exercise. I read an article somewhere that the human ear can't even distinguish between CD quality and super ultra HD audio

    Possibly this one: http://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html


    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/high-end-pc-audio,3733-18.html

    This is a long article where people with a few clues did quite a lot of testing and decided that a 99c chip sounded almost indistinguishable from a $2000 DAC even when playing into $1000 headphones.

    My experience is that my external, USB DAC ($99-ish) with decent headphones is much better at home in the quiet than anything else I'm willing to shell out for, but around town or at work the cheap version of my headphones powered by my phone or desktop PC is good enough. I can reliably ABX the DAC at home on certain tracks (ie, not the bad recordings), but my motherboard has unremarkable audio. Overall, about $NZ2500 has got me: a USB DAC, three pairs of decent headphones (for me the $$$ set, plus partner and work) and a usable set of powered speakers. Just the DAC and one set of phones would be ~$NZ350.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to JonathanM,

    Sidenote: Does it annoy anyone else when kickstarter is co-opted as an advertising medium where the people behind the products already have plenty of funds to make it happen?

    Yes. Especially when, as here, the "kickstarter" is selling the product for more than RRP. The signature of some random numpty on the side of a bit of consumer electronics doesn't change the value for me.

    Also, WTF not supporting 128GB uSD cards? That strongly suggests that within 12 months there will be a version two that has more storage. In my phone I have 16GB + 64GB card, and after a week I transcoded all my FLAC to ogg and now I have ~half my collection on my phone (it drops over time as I delete tracks to free up space for apps and photos... and buy more music). I don't expect the full 600GB to fit on the phone, but 64GB is not a lot of FLAC (hours, certainly, but not "I fell like a bit of JPSE... no, NZSO... hmm, Lorde?" type skipping around)

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • John Morton,

    While it might be true that MP3's psychoacoustic model was designed for inattentive, casual listeners in noisy environments, the last twenty or so years of development and tuning on, eg the LAME encoder as well as subsequent generations of codecs has been performed by highly attentive, trained audio engineers in low noise environment on equipment most of us can't or choose not to afford. The whole notion that lossy codecs are inherently inferior in outcome to lossless, let alone vinyl, is just bogus.

    What good might result from the existence of Pono is better mastering of existing works, but I suspect not. I'd say Pono will be consigned to the same graveyard of audio technology as SACD and DVD-Audio.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2014 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Background.

    That's a great piece of writing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Jim Cathcart,

    That’s interesting. I bought one Onkyo receiver because it it was incredibly cheap for what it offered (like, $400 cheap) and then another one when I wanted a stereo for my office, and that was only $300 – cheaper than any purist stereo amplifier. They’re both powerful and well-featured amplifiers.

    Actually, Onkyo was the first CE manufacturer to be approached by Apple to integrate the iPhone into home audio/home theater. The Onkyo engineers could sense the opportunity to really take this home, much you like expressed in the article. And Apple wanted Onkyo because they knew their old school approach to sound and perfection in analog output. Next minute, Microsoft was banging on the door trying to drag Onkyo into their integrated home entertainment dreams. Onkyo was too small and earthy to deal effectively with these guys and would rather move at Japanese pace.

    Since Nov 2006 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Moz,

    My experience is that my external, USB DAC ($99-ish) with decent headphones is much better at home in the quiet than anything else I’m willing to shell out for, but around town or at work the cheap version of my headphones powered by my phone or desktop PC is good enough.

    Where I first noticed the difference was trying to DJ off my iPad, alongside vinyl. The gulf between digital files and records through a PA was just embarrassing. And it really did seem to go away when I added the DAC. WAV files do seem to sound better in that setting too.

    I'm also pretty clear on the fact that AirPlaying to my Onkyo receiver sounds a lot better than running a lead out of the headphone port.

    The difference between lossless and lossy? I've never done a side-by-side comparison so I could be just imagining it ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The difference between lossless and lossy? I've never done a side-by-side comparison so I could be just imagining it ..

    I've done a bit, and specifically the bit where I encoded at 3 different settings and ABX'd them before settling on a value that was "sometimes I can tell", on the basis that my phone doesn't produce great audio and I'd rather have more music than very slightly better audio. The good news is that with a modern desktop you can transcode very quickly (overnight for my collection - 600GB/10 weeks) so getting it wrong is not a disaster. Transcoding, BTW, is always from FLAC, not between lossy formats.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    all this talk of sound stuff is why the public tune out of giving a crap about audio quality.... they just wanna hear the music, cue off the shelf consumer friendly (i anyone) devices that have taken off and them that haven't

    me I love music.... and I've yet to find a audiophile who can honestly say the same, they are too obsessed with sound quality over what moves them musically

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 537 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    I love music too. For me the difference in appreciation between high resolution recordings and lossy files is akin to the difference between looking at a reproduction of a painting in a book, and taking in the real thing in a gallery.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Someone pointed me to this excellent, informed blog post, which basically says:

    Unfortunately, there is no point to distributing music in 24-bit/192kHz format. Its playback fidelity is slightly inferior to 16/44.1 or 16/48, and it takes up 6 times the space.

    And nails it on the actual value of lossless. I was kinda aware that my older MP3 might not have been well-encoded, but had not suspected the problem was nearly as bad with AAC:

    It's true enough that a properly encoded Ogg file (or MP3, or AAC file) will be indistinguishable from the original at a moderate bitrate.

    But what of badly encoded files?

    Twenty years ago, all mp3 encoders were really bad by today's standards. Plenty of these old, bad encoders are still in use, presumably because the licenses are cheaper and most people can't tell or don't care about the difference anyway. Why would any company spend money to fix what it's completely unaware is broken?

    Moving to a newer format like Vorbis or AAC doesn't necessarily help. For example, many companies and individuals used (and still use) FFmpeg's very-low-quality built-in Vorbis encoder because it was the default in FFmpeg and they were unaware how bad it was. AAC has an even longer history of widely-deployed, low-quality encoders; all mainstream lossy formats do.

    Lossless formats like FLAC avoid any possibility of damaging audio fidelity [23] with a poor quality lossy encoder, or even by a good lossy encoder used incorrectly.

    A second reason to distribute lossless formats is to avoid generational loss. Each reencode or transcode loses more data; even if the first encoding is transparent, it's very possible the second will have audible artifacts. This matters to anyone who might want to remix or sample from downloads. It especially matters to us codec researchers; we need clean audio to work with.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Rowe,

    Where was Neil Young when cassettes were the Trojan horse for CDs destroying vinyl? Tapes had an absolutely shit sound compared to... just about everything.

    me I love music.... and I've yet to find a audiophile who can honestly say the same, they are too obsessed with sound quality over what moves them musically

    Agreed. Audiophiles listen to the stereo, the music is secondary.

    Lake Roxburgh, Central Ot… • Since Nov 2006 • 574 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Russell Brown,

    There’s a theory that brostep was invented because weeny laptop speakers couldn’t play the bass in proper dubstep.

    I love it.

    ...And I went and stocked up with proper-like UK dubstep CDs when I was last in Auckland. I rip those into OGG for carting around, but I should really stash them somewhere as FLAC.

    As for this whole digital to analog conversion stuff, I must investigate more. I currently play my music through the stereo from the headphone jack in my laptop or PMP, but it does sound like pants, even at the higher bitrates. Good to know I'm not imagining it.

    I somehow didn't think that it needs to become analog before it hits the amp and was muttering to myself that a digital signal shouldn't be that degraded when it exits my machine... well, it ain't digital in the headphone jack, innit, duh.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    And that’s interesting stuff about the encoder quality. I used to download the reference OGG (vorbis) encoder and use that when I was using CDex to rip my audio, but of late I’ve been using whatever’s bundled into Media Monkey, which I suspect is FFmpeg. Might explain why I’ve felt it necessary to bump up the OGG “quality level” when ripping lately – I just thought my ears were being fussier.

    More reading to be done!

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen D. O'Hoy,

    Russell did a Media7 about comparing MP3s to higher quality audio to see if anyone could tell the difference. It's on YouTube somewhere. Sam Flynn-Scott, Peter Baker and I were on the panel.

    I think Pono will struggle. The margins on digital music retail are very small. To release the catalogue the majors demand some fairly high percentages and large advances. This means that to be a financial success you have to have a very large volume of sales. I just don't see there being that much of mass demand for hi-fidelity digital audio. The market, and by that I mean "youth", are more than happy to listen to poor quality MP3s, AACs, Spotify streams or even (shudders) audio on YouTube.

    The other option for success for a digital music retailer is for the music to effectively be a loss leader to push another product. Apple do it very well with using iTunes as a lure for iPad, iPod and iPhone sales. Telcos with music stores are using it as a method to push bandwidth uptake. I can't really see there being anything beyond a niche market at best for the Pono Player.

    Since Sep 2013 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Rik, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Stephen - my 6yo son likes Puddles, he's a bit Tom Waits for me, but the band Puddles is playing with (Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox) are awesome, so thanks for posting that link!

    Since Jun 2007 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Stephen D. O'Hoy,

    I can't really see there being anything beyond a niche market at best for the Pono Player.

    My 16yrold sons can't wait. They complain deeply about the tinny iPod touch sound, prefer records and hunt them out, and are hanging out for a decent digital sound player. There must be more out there.

    In the tradition of Ian Dalziel's gug guide for Chchch: tomorrow is the South Island QiGong Open Day at Papanui High 10am to 3pm.

    http://www.qigong.org.nz/sites/default/files/attachments/qigong_dle_leaflet_visual_2014.pdf

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Johnston,

    Man, so many responses about the format and so few on the music! At a certain age, does one start meaning more than the other?

    Anyway, back to the music.

    I have high hopes for the Grayson Gilmour album - love the tracks I've heard so far. Will also check out the @Peace ... btw Eddie is opening for both acts at their Welli album launch gigs, as Lontalius and Race Banyon respectively.

    And re the whole Neil Young thing - amazed he can hear anything after four decades of Crazy Horse...

    Wellington • Since Sep 2013 • 25 posts Report Reply

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